PS4.5 NEO: What we know about PS4K
The PlayStation 4.5 (or NEO as it’s been codenamed) is a pretty unique beast. Mid-generation console hardware refreshes are nothing new. The first PlayStation had the PSOne refresh, and both the PS2 and PS3 had slim versions that came out a couple of years after the initial console.
The PS4.5 is a little different from what we’ve seen in the past. Instead of just slimming down the console and maybe using some more power-efficient components, Sony is making some substantial upgrades to the hardware itself.
These upgrades will mean that the PS4.5 will be Sony’s first 4K console, but beyond that details are a little more scarce … but that may not be the case come September 7, the day Sony plans on holding an event in New York City to discuss the future of PlayStation. If there’s ever going to be a time for Sony to pull back the curtain, this is it.
Until then, though we don’t yet know when the console is due to release. Most rumors we’ve seen have indicated that it should arrive in early-2017, but without an official announcement from Sony that date isn’t set in stone.
There are also still a lot of unanswered questions about how games will work with the system. Will we have to re-buy our existing PS4 games if we want to enjoy them in 4K resolutions, or will there be some kind of upgrade program? These are questions that Sony will have to provide some decisive answers to if they’re to avoid the feeling that they’re ripping off fans.
However, there’s some good news: this upgrade isn’t a replacement, but rather another option for gamers who want to spend extra cash for an enhanced experience. Sony executive Andrew House has confirmed that the PlayStation 4.5 will exist alongside the common PS4, and all games going forward will work across both versions.
Sound appealing? Here’s what we know so far.
Why another PS4?
The PlayStation 4 is the most powerful game console on the market today, but after two and a half years on the market, it’s handily beaten by a capable gaming PC. As tech advances at an increasingly rapid rate, Sony is reportedly eager to offer an enhanced version of the PlayStation 4 that will offer a bit more processing power and speed to enable even grander and better-looking experiences.
One reason is to support 4K Ultra HD resolution for gaming. While the PS4 can run 4K video footage, it’s not able to handle interactive games at that incredibly crisp resolution. Supposedly, the PlayStation 4.5 will be built to allow games to run at 4K – for people who have a 4K television, of course. That might be a small number now, but it’s growing steadily; and an upgraded PS4 might help sell Sony’s 4K sets like the Sony XBR-X930D/KD-XD9305, to boot.
Another reason Sony wants to put a little more power on the table is for the PlayStation VR headset, which will release on October 16, 2016. Both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets require a high-end PC to operate, but the PS4 does VR with comparably less power. However, in a VR world, silky-smooth performance is crucial to ensure full immersion. With the PS4.5, developers should be able to tap into the newer hardware to enhance their VR experiences.
These suspicions were further fueled when in an interview with EDGE magazine an industry insider said that PlayStation VR was going to be "terrible" on launch PS4s, creating the need for an enhanced console to offer a better VR experience.
According to a leaked document first acquired by Giant Bomb, sources indicate that the PlayStation 4.5 will sport some speeder components. The CPU is said to utilize 8 Jaguar Cores running at 2.1 Ghz apiece (as opposed to 1.6 Ghz in the original PS4), while an upgraded AMD GPU should offer extra graphical muscle with 36 compute units at 911 MHz compared to 18 CU at 800 MHz in the earlier model.
The transfer speed on the 8GB GDDR5 RAM will also bump up to 218 GB/sec from 176 GB/sec. Don’t know what that all means? Don’t worry: more processing power and faster speeds mean the PlayStation NEO will be able to handle higher-resolution output, manage more textures and details onscreen, and generally provide a smoother play experience overall.
The report says that while the PlayStation 4.5 will allow for 4K gaming output, Sony won’t require it to be natively supported. In other words, if a developer opts to stick with 1080p and put that processing power into other graphical or performance areas rather than resolution, that’s fine: the image will be upscaled for anyone with a 4K set anyway.
Frame rate is apparently a larger concern for Sony, with a mandate that games on the PlayStation 4.5 must have an equal or higher frame rate than the standard PS4 version. That way, developers don’t sacrifice visual fluidity in favor of a sharper resolution.
How will games work?
Here’s the reportedly good news: while there’s no word of any sort of upgrade kit for the current PlayStation 4, at least existing owners don’t have to worry about exclusive games that are only designed for the PlayStation 4.5. It’s not happening.
That’s according to the Giant Bomb report, which claims that Sony has mandated that all games for the PlayStation 4 platform must work on both the new and old consoles. Games for the new hardware can feature enhanced graphics, of course, as well as some expanded functionality, but they cannot feature exclusive play modes or split the online servers between consoles. Furthermore, the system’s interface should look and act exactly the same on the new box.
The report notes that Sony will require games to feature a "Base Mode" for the original PS4 console and a "Neo Mode" for the PS4.5, both of which you’ll find in the same release. You’ll get the same core play experience on either console, although with the Neo Mode on the new hardware, you’ll see enhanced graphics and perhaps other perks as well.
Andrew House further elaborated on this functionality by saying that "all or a very large majority of games will also support the high-end PS4." This suggests that while all PS4 games will run on the Neo, a smaller number will support the additional 4K functionality.
When’s it coming?
Supposedly, Sony will require that all games released from October 2016 forward offer support for both console versions out of the box, and that games shipping in late September must have a day-one patch to add in the functionality. That’s according to Giant Bomb’s report, but it doesn’t mean that the PlayStation 4.5 will necessarily release at the start of October: Sony has reportedly given the OK for games to ship with Neo support before the console itself does.
Still, that estimate lines up pretty well with what we’ve heard previously: a Wall Street Journal report in March suggested that Sony would announce the PlayStation 4.5 in advance of the PlayStation VR’s release in October, and this rumour has been further corroborated by a report which claims that Sony is planning on announcing the console at the Tokyo Game Show in September.
A pairing of the PlayStation VR and PS4.5 would make Sony’s VR offering seem a lot more capable compared to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, as well, even if those are PC-based options. Maybe we’ll even see a super-sized bundle with everything tossed into one pricey box.
Given E3′s status as the annual hotspot for massive video game industry announcements in June, we initially thought we’d be most likely hear about the PlayStation 4.5 then and see a release pretty close to the PlayStation VR in October, but in the end E3 2016 passed without any reference being made to the Neo.
Kotaku’s original report on the system suggested that a price point could fall around $400, although the site’s sources didn’t have any consensus on that. If true, we imagine the older model will drop further in price to better differentiate the two.
Releasing an upgraded PlayStation 4 so soon after the original might rub some fans the wrong way – we’ve even speculated as much – but at least the rumors suggest that Sony isn’t abandoning the original buyers – just tempting them with something even better.
Will it be worth the extra cash? We may find out pretty soon once Sony pulls back the curtain.